I've been writing about and advertising for the Going Native Garden Tour for months now. The tour needed gardens, we needed volunteers, we needed visitors. Then I needed to get the garden ready, and spent an exhausting Saturday sweeping, tidying up, and trying to arrange a bee pickup.
On Sunday, we had an early breakfast, and then we got ready. First, the plants had to be labeled. An important part of the tour is educating people, and every garden must label the natives (non-natives are optional, I label them rarely). I'm using yogurt tub lids, on which I've written with black marker. It works well: The labels are free, easy to store, and waterproof. The size encourages large writing, which people like. Next year I'll make some photos...
Then the nursery arrived. The tour had Gold Rush nursery as a nursery sponsor, and Nicky decided to hold a plant sale at my house. She brought beautiful, healthy plants in 4 inch pots, and gave me 4 plants to put into holes into my containers. They looked so pretty! We were happy to help Nicky set up for the 10 o'clock start of the tour. When the first visitor arrived, we were ready.
We had a table with brochures from the Santa Clara Valley Water District and from other sponsors of the tour. A greeter sat at the table and asked people to sign in and take brochures if they wanted. The visitors could then enjoy the front garden with the new patio.
Visitors could look at more plants with labels in the front (sorry, taking great pictures was not high on my list that day).
And then the visitors were invited to enjoy the back garden, where more and more people lingered for a while in the shade of the redwoods as the day wore on. I was the docent in the back for most of the day, handing out flyers and answering questions. We had books to look at, and Mr. Mouse had made a handout about our Solar Electric and our Solar Thermal systems because we always get so many questions. Go to his blog to read more about those systems.
I had hot tea and throat lozenges ready and actually still had a voice after 6 hours. And it was so exciting to meet people who had read our blog, and to show people how beautiful natives can be. I also took a little time out when Barbara from Freemont came and showed us some photos of her amazing native plant garden. Her annuals are in full bloom, and I just could not believe my eyes when I saw the pictures.
For the kids, I had put aside the hummingbird nest and a lizard skin I had found in my garden, and they enjoyed the extra attention and liked to see something special.
At 4 pm, we half closed the gate, packed the brochures, and folded the table. We left Nicky to deal with her plants (it felt a little strange not to help, but she said it had been a good day for her and did not mind). We invited our special guests into the back: Ms. Curbstonevalley, her husband, and Christine from Idora Design. Even though we were a little tired, Country Mouse and I had the best time meeting these special friends that we'd actually never seen in person.
We had tea and cookies and we talked and talked. It was so much fun, there were so many stories to share, time went by quickly. Finally, the guests went home, Mr. Mouse and I did a little more cleanup, and I went to the computer to see the results of the tour come in. Altogether, we had over 12 000 garden visits during this tour, distributed among the 67 tour gardens. If only 1% of the visitors get excited about the great potential of native plants, for saving water, for that special beauty, and for biodiversity, wouldn't that be wonderful?
And here, my parting shot of Mimulus guttatus (seep monkey flower), in the front fountain, which opened the morning after tour day. A surprise in the garden every day...